UN rights body should increase attention to abuses against older people in armed conflict

Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch expresses its deepest concern for all civilians trapped in Ukraine who are unable to safely evacuate, and in particular those older people who have been unable to flee attacks and have limited access to safe shelter, food, water and life-saving medication.

Older people are often at heightened risk of laws-of-war violations and other abuses during armed conflict. Older people with limited mobility or other disabilities and who do not have support to flee, have to remain behind as fighting intensifies. Others choose to stay to protect their property or because they do not want to be a burden or slow down their family’s escape.

Human Rights Watch’s research in 15 countries from 2013 to 2021 found that government forces and non-state armed groups have attacked and committed serious abuses against older civilians, including unlawful killing, summary executions, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other ill-treatment, rape, abduction and kidnapping, and the destruction of homes and property.

One older woman said that when government soldiers first came to her village in South Sudan in 2015, “the older men and women who couldn’t run were killed.”

Older civilians have been killed and injured by small arms, heavy weapons, explosive weapons with wide area effects, and chemical and other banned weapons. Despite this, older people remain invisible victims of war.

The Human Rights Council should ensure that the need for enhanced protection of older civilians in armed conflict is recognized and addressed in a comprehensive manner in its work on the war in Ukraine and on other international and non-international armed conflicts.

As a first step, the Council should request that reports related to conflict situations submitted to it include specific information about the situation of older people in armed conflict and their enhanced need for protection.

Public Release. More on this here.